The concept of mentoring has become very popular in the fields of both education and business in recent years. It is recognized as a beneficial tool in many situations.
My work in the business side of education has given me many opportunities to observe how mentoring works.
In our School Business networking and professional development we are encouraged to seek out mentors, while in our county’s mentoring outreach to at-risk youth we are urged to become mentors.
If you do a search for ideas on mentoring, either on the Internet or your local library, you will discover more information on the subject than you could ever consume. In observing mentoring relationships, both those that work and those that don’t, I’ve seen that the most basic element for success in mentoring is trust. The person being mentored, the mentee, must trust the motives of the mentor.
It becomes all too obvious, early on, if the mentor is more interested in the concept of being a mentor than in the welfare of the mentee. The homeless and foster kids in these programs have the most highly developed radar for this possibility, but even the adults being guided in their professional growth sooner or later become aware when they are being used as a stepping stone to the mentor’s advancement rather than their own.
I’ve been thinking lately of the concept of mentoring as it applies to women’s ministry.
The majority of women’s ministry groups today are made up of predominately older women. Older women are admonished in the Bible to become spiritual mentors to the younger women, but many of our ministry groups lack the opportunity to respond to that Biblical teaching just because there are no younger women in the group. Younger women may have come briefly among us, but then drifted away. We are left to wonder why. Was it the style of our gatherings? The time? No child care? High-fat snacks rather than healthier offerings?
Perhaps the young women are distrustful of our motives.
Do they feel that we are interested in each of them as individuals, or as members of an attractive demographic? Affirmative action, while well-meaning, has almost always been met with ambivalence. People want to be included, to be wanted, to be valued on their own merits. Not because they are needed to balance the diversity of a group of people.
The goal of a mentor is to guide the mentee, to help her to grow into the capability to become a mentor, as well. This means gradually relinquishing responsibility and control to the trainee as she becomes an equal partner who is able to both guide and be guided.
Is your ministry group willing to allow the younger women to exercise influence and control or are you trying to keep them from becoming mentors in their own right?
These are valid questions to consider in women’s ministry relationships, and in personal relationships, as well.
We women are natural mentors and nurturers, as in the mother-child relationship. It’s those rocky years when our children transition into adults that give us problems.